Friday, June 9, 2023
Reviews 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4xe Review: Putting PHEV Technology To Work

2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4xe Review: Putting PHEV Technology To Work

Compromising PHEV technology fits the niche Jeep Wrangler like a plug in a socket

  • Pricing for the Wrangler 4xe starts at $47,995 in the US, $54,995 in Canada.

  • The “4 by e” is the plug-in hybrid version of the Wrangler.

  • The PHEV powertrain is available with the Unlimited Sahara and Rubicon trims.

I’ve found one! Well, to be more precise, I’ve found one other plug-in hybrid vehicle that actually makes real-world sense. When truly boiled down, PHEV technology is a burden to both the vehicle and its owner. They are riddled with limitations, compromises, and no true efficiency gains unless they are used “as directed.” Not so with the all-new 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe.

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The only other PHEV I found to make sense was the Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid (applies to all Porsche vehicles with E-Hybrid powertrains) as the PHEV technology was added to the vehicle for performance gains. The same applies to the Jeep Wrangler. Obviously, the type of performance varies somewhat.

The Wrangler 4xe is not about being green

In the Wrangler’s case, it’s more power and the ability to leave smooth and paved surfaces and man-made noise pollution behind. This is another rare instance where I agree with the vehicle’s supporting marketing strategy. Essentially, this is not a “green vehicle”, it’s a high-performance ultra-capable off-roading tool that can go whisper-quiet for a short while in the environment of the driver’s choice.

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe | Photo: Olivier Delorme

I’m not attempting to diminish the Wrangler 4xe, I’m being ultra-realistic about why it exists. Now, the driver has many options. And it might be, in part, how these options are presented to him or her that also has me excited about this PHEV.

The 4xe starts off with Jeep’s wonderful turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine to which two electric motors are connected. One acts as the eTorque motor for start/stop capabilities – it replaces the alternator. The other is positioned between the transmission and the 2.0T. All told, the total system output is an impressive 375 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque (equal twisting power to the Wrangler 392) and to answer the question, yes, the Wrangler 4xe is quick.

Mind the E-Save button

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Feeding the electric motors is a 17.3 kWh battery that when fully charged will enable the Jeep Wrangler to cover up to 25 miles or 35 km without requiring petrol. Limited though this may be, what’s impressive is how simple managing the range and the hybrid system is.

There are three buttons to the left of the steering wheel. The Hybrid mode is the default way to get around. Depending on the driving requirements, the Wrangler will go all-electric or hybrid. The Electric mode is self-explanatory while the E-Save mode is the one that must be activated ASAP when planning on an excursion. It locks out battery charge and depending on driving conditions, it will slightly recharge the battery while driving. I did take the Rubicon 4xe off-road however my loan time and weather conditions cut short my adventures. The highlight is experiencing instant electric motor torque when climbing a grade.

Underneath it all, it’s still a Wrangler, albeit a heavy one

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe | Photo: Olivier Delorme

This is the niche aspect of this PHEV. As I said, the 4xe is quick – it will cover the 0-60mph sprint in 6 seconds flat. Passing and merging on the highway is laughably easy but the reality is that, with an extra 850 lbs (!) to lug around (2.0T Rubicon vs. the Rubicon 4xe), there’s no hope for real-world fuel economy gains. But, when off-road, the electric power and range add an extra layer of satisfaction to the pleasure delivered by the Wrangler.

On the road, the latest-generation JL remains the most civilized Wrangler of all time and, despite the Rubicon chassis upgrades. It’s when the pavement ends that the JL truly shines. The 4xe features identical hardware with the “regular” Rubicon meaning that the Rock-Trac 2-speed transfer case, Tru-Lock locking Dana differentials, dedicated dampers, and tires are all accounted for.

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe | Photo: Olivier Delorme

There’s another blue button, this time on the centre stack, and its role is also important. The maximum brake regeneration button is a simple on/off switch that, when activated, will dramatically slow the Wrangler (but not bring it to a full stop) when lifting off the throttle. I tried out on the road and on hard-packed off-road surfaces and its slowing impact is predictable and easy to modulate.

As far as styling goes, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4xe is dashing. The only visual differences over the “regular” Rubicon are the charging port at the meeting point between the “A” pillar and the front fender. Otherwise, there are a few badges and blue highlights. Blue accents are also strewn across the cabin mostly in the form of stitching. Everything else in the 4xe’s interior is identical to other Wranglers.

The many questions

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe | Photo: Olivier Delorme

One question is why a PHEV Wrangler? Other than extra power and maybe 35 km of EV range, it brings precious little to the table. Another question is what’s the premium to get a 4xe? The extra cost to acquire a 4xe is at least $5,000 more than an equivalent non-PHEV version. The charge is reasonable it’s not money that will be recovered by efficiencies.

What’s the price of my Firecracker Red Rubicon 4xe? With options such as leather, steel bumpers, the cold weather package, the cool Sky One Touch roof, and other options, it retails for $72,500.

Now: The Wrangler or wait for the Ford Bronco? This is a tough one to answer. The Bronco is a more modern vehicle, however, and for the moment, the Jeep Wrangler offers many more powertrain options including the 4xe and upcoming 392. The safest bet, in my opinion, is the V6 Wrangler over all of the above. However, there can be no doubt that the Bronco will be a formidable challenger…

And lastly: Should you get the 4xe PHEV for the power and range? Despite the V6 being the smart choice, for possibly only the second time in my career, I think the PHEV is a worthy choice. Remember to lock out the battery when leaving home though.

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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